Last week the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting published an on-the-spot report by a Chechen journalist who prudently chose to remain anonymous, establishing more clearly than ever that the federal authorities have been on a bloody “witch hunt” since the May 9 assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov. The new wave of repression has even affected northern Chechnya, previously considered to be relatively peaceful.
In the northern village of Kalaus, reported IWPR, masked gunmen broke into a house on May 31, killing one occupant and kidnapping two others. As in the many similar cases in south-Chechen towns, the attackers’ use of army jeeps many hours after curfew left little doubt about their identity.
According to the IWPR article, “Chechens say they have seen a noticeable upsurge in violence since the May 9 assassination….In particular, they say that the Russian federal forces—and deadly units of masked men they call ‘death squads’—have become active once again.”
The article quoted a Grozny resident: “”The Russian security services have used the killing of Kadyrov as an excuse to step up the terror against us….Whatever Russian and local officials say, things have become much worse here since May 9—it’s a veritable witch hunt. Russian security services are conducting ‘clean-up operations’ in Grozny and further south almost daily. Whatever you said about Kadyrov, he succeeded in reining in Russian violence. Now that he’s gone they are out of control. Every day you hear about murders and people being taken away. A distant relative of mine works for the local branch of the Russian Federal Security Service. He is a lieutenant colonel, and holds a pretty high post. He told me that the Russian military and security agents have stopped listening to him since Kadyrov’s death. Chechens serving in Chechnya’s security agencies have been downgraded to a secondary role. The Russians are fully in charge.”
Shakhman Akbulatov of the Memorial human-rights center told IWPR that so far his organization knows of “19 deaths in Chechnya in May alone—six civilians, three armed guerrillas, two government officials, and one security officer.” He stressed that those figures were “tentative and incomplete,” and added that “during the same period, 25 Chechens were kidnapped.” “The families of three paid a ransom, but the other 22 are still missing,” Akbulatov said.